Dumping ground for green peppers

The weather forecast of the first patchy frost tonight drove me out of bed early to bring in the last of the tender crops, peppers and basil.

There are not too many peppers left on the plants but they are big this year. I weighed an especially large one they other day: almost 14.5 ounces (405 grams).

To ripen green peppers it is usually recommended to place them in a paper bag with an apple, which gives off ethylene and should help turning the peppers red. Yet I have found that the apple does not do much to speed up the process. Most of the peppers turn soft before turning red.

Green bell peppers are my least favorite of all peppers but there is one recipe for which I need them, that’s why I always freeze some. My husband and I once ate a black bean soup with cilantro at a local restaurant and both liked it so much that I tried to recreate it at home. It has become my standard recipe for black bean soup.

Black Bean Soup with Cilantro

This soup is made with dried black beans that need to be soaked beforehand. I do not recommend using canned beans, not only because I am a make-from-scratch proponent – the beans need to absorb the flavors as they cook.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion

½ celery stalk, diced

½ carrot, diced

1 large green bell pepper, seeded and diced

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary, or 1 teaspoon dried

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1½ cups black beans, soaked for 8 hours or overnight

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 small bunch fresh cilantro, leaves only

Salt

½ cup dry sherry

Heavy cream or milk (optional)

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion and cook until translucent, then add all the vegetables and the herbs. Cook about 8 minutes until the vegetables soften, stirring. Add the tomato paste and stirring until mixed in well. Drain the beans and add them with 5 cups water.

2. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cover. Simmer covered for 1 hour, stirring once in a while. Add salt and cook for another 30 minutes.

3. Remove the bay leaves. Coarsely chop the cilantro leaves and add them to the soup. Puree the soup with a stick blender, or in small batches in a blender. Bring back to a simmer and add the sherry. If the soup is too thick, add water. Salt to taste and stir in few tablespoons heavy cream if desired.

Makes 6 servings

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